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The Elisha Witt Tavern

Posted 7/18/23

According to the 1883 History of Howard and Cooper Counties, “This house was erected in the fall of 1824 by Elisha Witt with assistance from General Ignatius P. Owen on the ground where Howard …

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The Elisha Witt Tavern


According to the 1883 History of Howard and Cooper Counties, “This house was erected in the fall of 1824 by Elisha Witt with assistance from General Ignatius P. Owen on the ground where Howard College now stands.” The logs for Owen’s building had already been prepared, and his was erected the following day after he helped Witt with this one. Owen’s hotel (now long demolished) was located on the southeast corner of the Square.

Both buildings were intended for use as hotels and “were conducted as such by their proprietors for many years.” It appears that Witt enjoyed a hiatus of about a year in his ownership, however. In an advertisement in the Missouri Intelligencer and Boonslick Advertiser dated March 5, 1827, William Wright states that he has “just taken possession of his well-known Tavern House, on the Hill, in the Town of Fayette…lately in the occupancy of E. B. Witt, Esq. The eligibility of the situation, its remoteness from the bustle of the Courtyard, renders it well calculated for those who are fond of retirement.”  

The Witt Hotel was moved to its present location in 1852 at the corner of Elm Street and Mulberry Street when Howard-Payne Hall was constructed on what became the campus of Central Methodist College, according to T. Berry Smith. The style of the house is referred to as an I house with Georgian stylistic features. It is built of typical upland Southern construction using the materials available on the site, which in this case were logs. The Greek Revival doorway was probably added to give a sense of style to this simple building and to show the owners were up-to-date.

From the Columbia Herald Statesman – February 27, 1929: “Elisha Witt was born August 24, 1791, in Amherst County, Tennessee. He died on February 27, 1829, in Fayette. He was one of the first inhabitants of Fayette; and the promptness and fidelity with which he, at all times, discharged the duties both of an innkeeper and a citizen, placed him also, among the first in society as an exemplary model of friendship and hospitality. In the death of Capt. Witt, every friend to good society has abundant cause of lamentation. Society will sustain of loss of one of the brightest ornaments among men. The vacuum cannot be easily filled. During his life he was universally esteemed. His death will be equally regretted. He has left an amiable though bereaved companion to condole with her relatives and friends, her sore and afflicted bereavement. As he was summoned to death by the great destroyer of the human race while in the vigor of meridian life, enjoying the inestimable blessing of health, the young and middle aged may learn an important lesson – an impressive monument of the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death.”  

More recently, the building has been used as a private residence and as a rental income property. David Fortel was responsible for beautifully restoring this historic property during his time of ownership. The current owner is 3939 Magnolia LLC.

Submitted by Pam Huttsell and Kathy Brady on behalf of the Fayette Historic Preservation Commission. This is the first in a series of stories highlighting historic Fayette properties that will be published by the Advertiser. 


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